The Basics of How Storms Work
Learn the basics of how storms work in this section!
Can You Spot Tornado Lookalikes Underneath Storms?
One of the biggest ‘bad’ storm reporting trends I see are areas of spinning dust under a storm seemingly almost always ending up as a tornado report. This is irrespective of the broader context that said spinning area of dust exists within. If there is an overarching message I’d like this video to get across…
Tornado Factories: What Are Supercells And How They Churn Out Twisters
Supercells are what storm chasers are after each and every year. Ask any storm chaser what they’re really after out there and it is probably either tornadoes or incredible storm structure — both of those are most common with supercells! These rotating storms pack a punch, creating some of the most dangerous weather on earth…
Wall Clouds vs. Shelf Clouds: Understanding the differences
To a beginning storm observer, wall clouds and shelf clouds (and more broadly inflow vs. outflow features) — can be confusing. Both of these storm features look to hang down from storms and oftentimes they can be mistook for one another. However, these two could not be more different. Shelf clouds are products of storm…
Want to Photograph Monsoon Season? | Five Tips to Photograph the Monsoons
Every summer in the desert southwest of the United States, a familiar pattern emerges and storms roam the desert landscapes. This pattern is known as the monsoon pattern. While this pattern isn’t as violent as the spring supercells on the Plains or as active as its namesake from India — the southwest monsoons are an…
What are updrafts and downdrafts?
From the NWS Glossary: Updraft – A small-scale current of rising air. If the air is sufficiently moist, then the moisture condenses to become a cumulus cloud or an individual tower of a towering cumulus or Cb. Downdraft – A small-scale column of air that rapidly sinks toward the ground, usually accompanied by precipitation as…
What is the flanking line of a supercell thunderstorm?
The flanking line is common in supercell thunderstorms. The flanking line is a line of cumulus or towering cumulus clouds connected to the parent updraft and extending outwards.
What is the rear flank downdraft?
The rear flank downdraft (RFD) is a key ingredient in tornado formation in supercell thunderstorms. The RFD is a region of air (usually dry) subsiding on the back side of a mesocyclone that then wraps around the mesocyclone. It is often visible as a clear slot wrapping around the wall cloud.
What is a wall cloud?
Check out this definition from the NWS Glossary: A localized, persistent, often abrupt lowering from a rain-free base. Wall clouds can range from a fraction of a mile up to nearly five miles in diameter, and normally are found on the south or southwest (inflow) side of the thunderstorm. When seen from within several miles,…
What are shelf clouds?
Shelf clouds are usually associated with the leading edge of storm outflow — this is usually a sign of a line of storms or an HP supercell. Often, rising motion is seen at the front of the shelf, with the underbelly of the shelf being quite turbulent.
What are anvils?
Anvils are the flat, spreading top of a cumulonimbus cloud. Thunderstorm anvils may spread hundreds of miles downwind from the thunderstorm itself. Sometimes, they may even spread upwind.
Visually Discerning the Strength of a Thunderstorm by the Updraft’s Appearance
You don’t need radar to know how a storm is doing. Typically, a storm will give a pretty sure sign as to how strong or how weak it is by its visual cues.
A Primer on Tornado Formation…
How tornadoes form is one o the biggest questions facing atmospheric scientists today. However, we do know a lot of the ‘whys’ of tornado formation. Most tornadoes form from what we call supercell thunderstorms. These storms have a rotating updraft known as a mesocyclone, which creates the processes necessary for tornado formation.
What are landspouts?
Not all tornadoes originate from a mesocyclone or even a supercell. One type of non-supercell tornado is a land spout. Landspout tornadoes occur as the parent storm cloud is in its growth stage with the spin originating in the boundary layer of the storm.
How to anticipate tornado possibilities with regards to cloud base height in supercells
You can tell how likely a storm may be to produce tornadoes by the height of its cloud base. Generally a storm with lower cloud bases will pose a greater tornado risk than a storm with higher cloud bases.
What are funnel clouds?
Most funnel clouds should be watched very carefully for the potential of a tornado.
What are mammatus clouds?
Mammatus clouds are certainly pretty, but what do they signify in thunderstorms?
Where do severe storms happen?
The answer: well basically everywhere but it depends on the time of year for the ‘normal’ peak of severe weather season.
How do tornadoes move?
A look at how tornadoes move across the prairie.
What are the ingredients for tornado formation?
A look at some of the ingredients you need to see tornadoes form.
A Primer on Tornado Formation
A look at how tornadoes form — or at least as much info on that subject in 1:22 that we could fit!
The Top Weather Killers in the U.S.
A look at the top weather killers in the U.S.
The Ingredients for Storm Formation
A look at what ingredients are needed for storms to form.
What are supercell thunderstorms?
A look at supercells, how they form, and what their picces are.
Squall Lines: What are they?
A look at squall lines and what to look for in terms of severe weather threats from them.
When is the peak of severe weather season?
When does severe weather season peak in the U.S.?
The EF Scale
A look at the EF scale to measure tornado intensity.
What is wind shear?
A look at what is wind shear.
When and where do storms occur in the U.S.?
A look at both when and where storms occur over the US.
What months does severe weather occur in the U.S.?
The answer: All of them. But what months are the peaks?
What exactly is thunder?
A brief explanation of what the heck thunder actually is.
What is lightning?
A look at what exactly is lighting…
What are the types of tornadoes?
A look at the different shapes and sizes tornadoes come in…
The types of thunderstorms: Explained
A look at the main types of thunderstorms.
What are single cell thunderstorms?
A look at “pulse” storms…
What are multicell thunderstorms?
A look at multicells and what threats they bring in terms of severe weather….
Some Facts About Lightning…
A few facts about lightning.
The Basics of Lift: What Patterns Result in Storms?
Severe storms need three main ingredients: wind shear, instability, and atmospheric lift. Atmospheric lift is important to get air parcels in an unstable atmosphere to begin lifting upwards and eventually condensing into clouds. Lift is necessary to overcome a capping inversion on the most dynamic days as well. Usually, lift is associated with an upper…
The Basics of Atmospheric Instability
What is instability, how do we measure it, and what to look for on severe weather days.
The Dangers of Flash Flooding: Turn Around, Don’t Drown!
Turn around don’t drown seems simple, but flash flooding will probably still be the #1 convective weather killer of the year you are reading this caption.
How big can tornadoes get? Does the size matter?
Letâ€™s answer the question: How big do tornadoes get? Tornadoes can be both very big, and quite small. Their sizes can range from a few yards across to a couple of miles! Thus, tornado size is certainly a variable topic. Interestingly, size doesnâ€™t matter in terms of tornado strength. Bigger tornadoes do have a bigger…
Where, exactly, is tornado alley?
Depending on who is asking, the answer to where is tornado alley varies greatly. Who is asking? Why are they asking? Where are they asking from? Much of the United States lives under a near constant yearly threat from tornadoes spawned from supercells. The answer to where is tornado alley is actually quite complex. Air…
What are supercells?
A supercell is a thunderstorm with a deep, persistently rotating updraft. Supercells are the least common form of thunderstorm yet they are potentially the most violent. Large hail of greater than baseball size, strong damaging winds, and tornadoes can accompany these storms. To storm chasers, Supercells are the grand catch â€” they are the bounty…
What is hail?
Hail is actually responsible for some big monetary loss disasters in the country. All too often during severe weather season, hail takes a back seat to tornadoes but many storms are notable just because of the gigantic hail they throw out. These big ice chunks from thunderstorms form and fall to the ground with intense…
How to Judge What a Storm Tower Says About a Stormâ€™s Strength
Newer chasers have come of age with an abundance of technology at their fingertips. But did you know you can visually discern what a storm is saying minutes before a satellite or radar image? Here’s one tip…
What is wind shear? An Explainer on Speed Shear and Directional Shear…
We oftentimes talk about wind shear as if you already know what it is â€” but you may find yourself asking what is wind shear when you hear the term. Never fear, weâ€™ve got a video about that very thing. Simply put, wind shear is the change of direction and speed with winds with heigh…
What is instability? What is CAPE? How do we measure it for storms?
Instability. We talk about it a lot. We talk about as if you know what it is. But you may not know, we may be assuming, and you may be lost. So letâ€™s explain. Firstâ€¦a definition from the officially official experts: The tendency for air parcels to accelerate when they are displaced from their original…